Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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OCTOBER 12 , 2007 -- Number 29, Volume 7

1. THREE MAJOR MEAT RECALLS

On October 6th, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled some 845,000 pounds of ground beef because of possible contamination with Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7. It was a mere day after the Topps Meat Co., the largest frozen hamburger company in the U.S., announced it was going out of business due to a September recall of all the hamburger it had produced in the past year (22 million pounds, the 5th largest such recall involving E. coli in U.S. history). Topps concedes that most of it likely has been eaten. The meat is implicated in 32 cases of illness in 8 states. The Cargill meat is suspected in a growing number of cases.

E. coli contamination has led to eleven ground beef recalls so far this year (see: http://tinyurl.com/29nblf ), five of which were prompted by illness. Between 2003 and 2006 the number of recalls linked to ground beef averaged seven per year. The increasing number of incidents is calling into question the effectiveness of food regulations and monitoring. Although tests indicated the E. coli strain in the Topps meat on September 7th and confirmed it on the 14th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture waited until Sept. 25th to announce the recall (see: http://tinyurl.com/27d8zy ). “A person couldn't be blamed for wondering whether the department was trying to protect the beef industry or the public,” a Columbus Dispatch editorial states (see: http://tinyurl.com/2m63jd and see: http://tinyurl.com/22gdzu ). "We've determined, in fact, that there is room for improvement,” a Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) administrator acknowledged, referring to recall procedures. In a recent industry survey, some 60% of respondents doubted that it would be possible to trace the source of E. coli in ground beef to the original supplier. See also: http://tinyurl.com/299r3v

Late Thursday (Oct. 11th), ConAgra Foods Inc. announced a recall of all of its Banquet pot pies, including those made with beef. The CDC has linked Banquet pot pies to at least 165 cases of salmonella in 31 states, dating back to January, with at least 30 people so far having been hospitalized. On Tuesday, ConAgra had requested that U.S. stores stop selling Banquet pies containing turkey and chicken meat. ConAgra and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defended their decision to not recall the products, saying they are safe if cooked as instructed. ConAgra explains that it has now voluntarily recalled the pies “to ensure the utmost clarity for consumers about the fact that they should not eat these products” even if cooked thoroughly. (This past winter, ConAgra recalled its peanut butter after a salmonella outbreak eventually sickened 625 people in 47 states.)

Consumer groups are renewing their call for a single government agency focused exclusively on food safety, something the National Academy of Sciences recommended nearly a decade ago. The government continues to stress that the U.S. meat supply is “the safest in the world.” An item in Beef Cow-Calf Weekly comments: “Interestingly, the U.S. continues to see far less disruptions in its markets during such missteps than other countries. That's simply because the consuming public continues to put great trust in USDA's role as an independent, third-party validator of the food-safety process.” See: http://tinyurl.com/26p5xb


SPIKE IN E COLI–RELATED BEEF RECALLS ALARMS OFFICIALS
CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy) News, Lisa Schnirring, Oct 9, 2007
http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/fs/food-disease/news/oct0907coli.html

SECOND-LARGEST U.S. MEAT RECALL SINKS TOPPS
The Poultry Site News Desk, Oct. 8, 2007
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/13012/secondlargest-us-meat-recall-sinks-topps

CONAGRA ASKS STORES IN U.S. TO QUIT SELLING POSSIBLY TAINTED POT PIES
The Canadian Press, October 11, 2007
http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5jfRtBmRDZf_6DfX9so8yqGDfz8SA

CONAGRA RECALLS POT PIES
Business Week (The Associated Press), Anna Jo Bratton with Josh Funk, Oct. 11, 2007
http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D8S7DQEO0.htm

 

2. PUBLIC MEETINGS ON FOOD SAFETY

A public meeting to solicit input on the public health significance of various strains of E. coli has been announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The meeting, to held on Oct. 17th in Arlington, Va., will include opportunities for questions and comments from the audience. For more information and to pre-register to attend in person or by teleconference, see: http://tinyurl.com/8l7ys

The State of Consumer Trust and the Food System is the title of the annual summit of the Center for Food Integrity (http://www.foodintegrity.org and see: http://tinyurl.com/22b2xw ). The event “will engage stakeholders throughout the food industry to explore and identify potential solutions to many of the issues the contemporary food system current faces, including health and nutrition, food safety, worker care, environment, and food animal well being.” Featured speakers include David Acheson, assistant commissioner for food protection (USDA); Dennis Avery of The Hudson Institute; and Wayne Pacelle with The Humane Society of the United States. The Summit will take place on October 24th in Indianapolis. See: http://www.foodintegrity.org/summit.html

 

3. AVIAN INFLUENZA ROOSTS IN CANADA

In late September, birds at a commercial “broiler breeder” farm in Saskatchewan became infected with the H7N3 strain of avian influenza (“bird flu”). Some 45,000-50,000 birds at the farm have been killed with carbon dioxide gas and buried in a remote area of the property. The government will compensate the company for the market value of the birds and the cost of killing and disposing of them. General restrictions have been imposed on the entire province of Saskatchewan. H7N3 is commonly found as a low-pathogenic form in wild ducks in North America. It is a mild strain not normally associated with human illness, unlike the more lethal H5N1 virus that has spread through birds in Africa, Asia and Europe, infecting some 328 people in 12 countries and killing about 200 of them. H7N3 can, however, quickly mutate into a highly pathogenic form in commercial poultry flocks. In 2004, some 16 million birds were killed in British Columbia to limit the spread of disease during Canada’s first major avian flu outbreak.


CANADA FINDS BIRD FLU STRAIN ON WESTERN FARM
Reuters; Roberta Rampton with Scott Haggett, Bob Burgdorfer, Allan Dowd and Christopher Doering; Sept. 27, 2007
http://uk.reuters.com/article/europeCrisis/idUKN2738657820070927

DEPOPULATION OF BIRDS COMPLETE AT SASKATCHEWAN FARM, CANADA
Medical News Today, October 4, 2007
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/84594.php

 

4. 350,000 SHEEP FACE DEATH DUE TO DISEASE RESTRICTIONS

Restrictions on animal movement in the U.K., and on British meat exports to the European Union imposed due to foot-and-mouth disease (FMD, see: http://tinyurl.com/yu3fgw ), are being somewhat relaxed. However, many fear the outbreak is not over and the relaxation may only exacerbate it. The Scottish government has announced that 250,000 lambs are to be slaughtered over the next ten weeks, insisting that killing them is the only way to save them from starving this winter. Ordinarily, the lambs would be sold abroad but FMD travel restrictions prevent them from legally being moved. The export market is reopening on October 12th and some lambs could be sold then. The government will pay farmers to send the animals to domestic slaughter, with some of their bodies used for biodiesel fuel and others incinerated. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) opposes the killing unless there plainly is an animal health or welfare issue.

Similarly, some 90,000 lambs and 10,000 ewes in England may be slayed as they are prohibited from being moved out of another disease zone and reportedly face starvation if left there. They are trapped due to bluetongue virus, which was confirmed in the U.K. on September 21st. Thousands of animals in Northern Europe have died from the virus, which is now endemic in the U.K. “It's not the disease that is going to kill the animals, it's the control zone that is going to kill the animals,” said a National Farmers' Union consultant who is also a sheep farmer.

FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE IN THE UK - SUMMARY
The Pig Site Newsletter, October 8, 2007
http://www.thecattlesite.com/footandmouth/vars/offset/0

250,000 LAMBS STRANDED BY FOOT-AND-MOUTH OUTBREAK TO BE SLAUGHTERED
The Scotsman, Hamish MacDonell, Oct. 10, 2007
This article: http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1617632007

STARVING LAMBS TO BE SLAUGHTERED
BBC News, Oct. 9, 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/7035225.stm

UK: BLUETONGUE OUTBREAK CONFIRMED AFTER FIFTH CASE
Daily Mail, Sept. 28, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/ypa5hn

SHEEP FACE CULLING DUE TO BLUETONGUE PROTECTION ZONE
Press Association Newsfile, October 2, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2a4our

 

5. DISEASE RESEARCH FACILITIES IN THE U.S.

News that U.S. officials are considered building a new animal disease research laboratory in this country brought “cries of disbelief”: http://tinyurl.com/yq4kwu. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is proceeding with plans to move an FMD lab from the isolation of Plum Island, N.Y. to one of five possible mainland sites. Proponents point to technology to prevent disease escape, with one DHS spokesperson asserting: "No matter where we put it it's going to be safe and secure." The Associated Press notes that no lab is fool-proof, and gives examples of recent safety breaches. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported poor safety practices, shoddy record-keeping, and a lack of proper training at campus labs. Animal agriculture industry groups are generally in support of plans for the $450 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, even if it is moved to a state with a heavy concentration of farmed animals. Some, however, are expressing reservations. FMD has been eradicted from the U.S. since 1929. Some 50 years ago, Congress mandated that research on the disease be restricted to an island not connected by bridge or tunnel to mainland U.S. A former Plum Island director dismisses this, noting that many diseases that are contagious between humans are studied in labs on the U.S. mainland.

In Ames, Iowa, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has dedicated a “high-containment” animal research building for experimentation with endemic, zoonotic and foreign animal diseases, using bison, cattle, deer, elk, pigs and sheep there. The building is the second component of a multi-phase, $460 million project. Upon completion, expected by 2009, it will be one of the largest facilities of its type in the world, serving the $100 billion U.S. animal agriculture industry.

NEW LAB PLANNED AMID BRITAIN'S FOOT-AND-MOUTH OUTBREAKS
The Associated Press, Suzanne Gamboa, Oct. 2, 2007
http://www.star-telegram.com/448/story/253918.html

NEW USDA ANIMAL RESEARCH FACILITY DEDICATED
High Plains Journal, Oct. 8, 2007
http://www.hpj.com/archives/2007/oct07/oct8/NewUSDAanimalresearchfacili.cfm

 

6. CALIFORNIA CONFINEMENT INITIATIVES; DAIRY INITIATIVE

Last year, Arizona voters made their state the first in the country to outlaw veal crates, and joined Florida in prohibiting the use of gestation crates for pigs. Oregon has since also banned gestation crates. California, with 20 million hens and the 5th largest egg industry in the U.S., will become the first state in the U.S. to ban conventional cages for egg-laying poultry if citizens there pass a ballot initiative (see PDF file: http://tinyurl.com/yprh4c and http://humanecalifornia.org). The California Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act would also affect calves used for veal and some 20,000 pigs used for breeding purposes by requiring enclosures be large enough for them to fully extend their wings or legs, lie down, stand up and turn around. In order for it to qualify for the November 2008 ballot, nearly 434,000 signatures must be collected by February 28th. The measure would take effect in 2015 and exempt rodeos, fairs, 4-H, and research and veterinary programs. Violations would be a misdemeanor and could result in a fine.

Opponents argue that the animals are humanely housed, and that alternative production methods could be less safe and more costly for consumers. A counter initiative, The Farm Animal Protection Act (see PDF file: http://tinyurl.com/2l2aug ), has been filed. Industry officials blamed the success of the Arizona initiative on the inability to produce a consumer-friendly sound byte. According to insiders, the lack of resistance to the initiative signaled a resignation to the end of gestation stalls in small agriculture states.

The first draft of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative was presented on October 4th at the World Dairy Expo, in Wisconsin. The coalition that formulated it did so with the intent of assuring consumers and others that the dairy industry provides appropriate care for the animals it uses. Industry input will be accepted over the next nine months, after which the principles and guidelines will be finalized. See: http://www.dairywellbeing.org

INITIATIVE WOULD RESTRICT CONFINEMENT OF CHICKENS, PIGS, CALVES
San Diego Union Tribune, Don Thompson, Oct. 2, 2007
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20071002-1604-wst-animalwelfare.html

ACTIVISTS WANT TO BAN CAGES, CRATES
Capital Press, Cecilia Parsons, Oct. 5, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2jxpor

ANIMAL GROUPS PUSH TO RESTRICT CONFINEMENT
The Poultry Site News Desk, Oct. 3, 2007
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/12979/animal-groups-push-to-restrict-confinement

GESTATION STALLS FALL TO OREGON LAWMAKERS
DVM Newsmagazine, Jennifer Fiala, Sept. 1, 2007
http://tinyurl.com/2ygwo6






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Compiled and edited by Mary Finelli, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.